I was at my lowest ebb last night. The walls were closing in. Anxiety meter in the red zone. And then, like the best elder brother I never had, a fellow New Jerseyan sauntered into the room and said “get hold of yourself, paisan…never let ’em see you sweat.” Then he said, “Here, have a drink.” My reply was on the sheepish side: “Uhm, I don’t drink…five years plus.” Mr. New Jersey gave me a disapproving look. “Maybe you should,” he said. “Naah…I’m good,” I replied. He shook his head. “Pretty much,” I added. Suddenly I felt better. I had stood my ground.
Dylan Baker, 58, is in the prime of his life, but when he passes, God forbid, the friend or family member who plants his tombstone needs to attach a durable, all-weather video screen playing this clip on a 24-hour loop. It’s hard to accept, but six days hence (11.25.17) John Hughes‘ Planes, Trains and Automobiles will celebrate its 30th birthday.
I’ve never paid the slightest heed to Michael Curtiz‘s Dr. X (’32), a pre-code horror film that was shot in two-strip Technicolor. It costarred Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy and Preston Foster. The pre-code conditions allowed for murder, rape, cannibalism and prostitution to be threaded into the script. A 1932 film with a cannibalism subplot? That in itself prompts…uhm, curiosity
But even if I wanted to pay attention I’d be stopped in my tracks by a lack of availability. As far as I can tell Dr. X is only watchable via an old Warner Home Video twin DVD that also includes The Return of Doctor X, which costarred Humphrey Bogart. (Bogart considered the latter, his only foray into horror, one of his all-time worst.)
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a two-strip Technicolor film ever, and Dr. X seems at least moderately attractive and reasonably well-hued. The trailer indicates an unfortunate adherence to the stiff, theatrical tone of early ’30s films, but you have to take the good with the bad. Somebody should pop out a remastered Bluray.
I’ve always wanted to settle into a candid, well-written biography of Hollywood uber-director Michael Curtiz, whose vigorous, efficient, well-honed direction of The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca made me perk up at an early age.
Now, it seems, that book has finally arrived — Alan K. Rode‘s “Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film” (University Press of Kentucky). Amazon says it’s been out since 10.16.17, but the promotional push is just starting to seep through.
I’ve been reading a sample section via Amazon. Spry and confident, pulsing with tasty quotes and catchy prose…anecdotes, side-shots (Curtiz was a hound), insights, ironies. An abundant, 698-page, six-course meal.
The Hungarian-born Curtiz had directed 64 films in Europe when he arrived in Hollywood in 1926, at age 38. He directed 102 films during his Hollywood career, most of them at Warner Bros.
HE’s Curtiz picks: Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Sea Wolf, Dive Bomber, Captains of the Clouds, the afore-mentioned Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca (for which he won a Best Director Oscar), Mildred Pierce, Young Man with a Horn, Jim Thorpe — All-American, White Christmas (Paramount’s first VistaVision film), We’re No Angels, King Creole (arguably guiding Elvis Presley to his best-ever screen performance) and The Comancheros (which John Wayne finished directing when Curtiz’s cancer left him bedridden — Wayne naturally took no credit).
During last night’s SNL “Weekend Update” segment, Colin Jost fairly and appropriately upbraided Sen. Al Franken for crude, intrusive behavior with Leeann Tweeden during that 2006 USO episode. Displaying that ubiquitous fratboy photo of Franken pretending to grab Tweeden’s breasts, Jost noted that the pic “was taken before Franken ran for public office, but it was also taken after he was a sophomore in high school…it’s pretty hard to be like ‘Oh, come on, he didn’t know any better, he was only 55.’”
But SNL‘s decision to include Franken, a single-incident offender, in a group shot with serial predators Bill Cosby, Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein was odious, tabloid-level smearing of the lowest order. SNL management was presumably fearful of being accused of going soft on an ex-colleague (Franken having worked for SNL for 15 years), but in this instance they grossly over-compensated.
The annual film panel at the Key West Film Festival happened yesterday afternoon (11.17, 3 pm) at The Porch. With Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn moderating, the panelists included L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan, Josh Rothkopf of TimeOut New York, Buzzfeed‘s Alison Willmore, Rolling Stone‘s David Fear, Shirrel Rhodes of the Key West Citizen, Miami New Times, Hans Morgenstern of Miami New Times and freelance critics Steve Dollar and Juan Barguin. I was invited to attend but couldn’t make it — earnest apologies.
If I had been Kohn, I would’ve asked the panelists the following: (1) “What’s going to win Best Picture Oscar this year, and why?” (2) “When’s the last time you paid to see a film at a regular theatrical showing at a megaplex, and what were your impressions after doing so?” (3) “So why are there so few really exceptional films this year, and why are the less-than-complete-knockouts getting all the Best Picture attention?” (4) “Without regard to the Oscar race, what has been your personal favorite Best Picture fave, and why?”
I know very little about what it takes to be a good stand-up comedian, but I suspect it might be a little bit like writing or working out. You can’t avoid it for 25 years and expect to just jump back in the saddle and be able to perform as well as you did in ’92. It’s not like riding a bicycle. It takes a long while to get your muscles back in shape. If I were to stop writing for a week, I would probably have a hard time getting back into it. If I were to stop for a year, I would have a horrible time resuming. But 25 years? Forget it.
That said, I admire Judd Apatow‘s willingness to jump back in.
Yesterday’s Deadline statement from Get Out director Jordan Peele was apparently a backpedal of some kind. It was apparently released because of what Peele actually said to Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn on the fly when Peele and Kohn spoke earlier this week.
An educated guess would be that Peele got into trouble for what he said to Kohn, and so the statement given to Deadline reads like a mea culpa to the Golden Globes. Peele clearly didn’t realize that Get Out was submitted in the comedy category. It would appear that Universal did that without telling him.
From Kohn’s piece: “At a lunch event for [Get Out] at New York’s Lincoln Ristorante, Peele elaborated on his reservations. ‘The problem is, it’s not a movie that can really be put into a genre box,’ he said in an interview prior to the lunch. ‘Originally, I set out to make a horror movie. I ended up showing it to people and hearing, you know, it doesn’t even feel like horror. It’s in this thriller world. So it was a social thriller.’
“While Universal submitted Get Out as a comedy to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Peele clearly had no input into that decision. ‘I don’t think it worked like that,’ he said. ‘I think it was just submitted.’ In fact, submissions are made to individual categories, but the HFPA makes the final decision about which categories each film falls into.
“A rep for Peele did not respond to a request to clarify whether the movie had been submitted as a comedy without his input.”
Some guy tried to punk me last night by sending a PDF of what he claimed was the first 55 pages of Quentin Tarantino‘s 1969 “not Manson” script. “Couldn’t get the whole thing,” he wrote. “My source only had a brief moment with it, hoping to get the rest next week.” What he sent was the first episode of John McNamara‘s Aquarius, a two-year-old, semi-fictional NBC series, initially set in Los Angeles of late 1967, about a tough L.A. detective (David Duchovny) searching for the teenaged daughter of an ex-girlfriend, and which portrayed Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) as the cause of her disappearance.
If I was a bigger watcher of network TV I might’ve spotted it right away, but instead I read it. I was initially intrigued by the big “9” on the cover page (the forthcoming project will be Tarantino’s ninth feature that he’s directed and written on his own) and an early scene in which a character orders “a slice of key lime to go” (Tarantino likes pie), but it was obvious early on that it wasn’t a Tarantino script. None of the characters had any of that swagger attitude. No gabbing, no soliloquies, no trademark loquaciousness. Plus the story’s too densely-packed with incident, and Tarantino isn’t big on punch-punch plotting. He’s basically a playwright who works in film.
“I was very shaken. He did a bad thing. What he doesn’t deserve is to be lumped in with Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein. Or Donald Trump. I know the difference between a man who once acted like a dick and a man who is a dick. I know the difference between someone who behaved like a high-schooler and someone who targeted high-schoolers.”
And by the way…
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Late yesterday afternoon I finally saw Patty Jenkins‘ Wonder Woman. I found it stirring from time to time, and, like...More »
This morning I read a 6.9 profile of MGM CEO Gary Barber by Deadline‘s Peter Bart (“A Resurgent MGM Builds...More »